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Japan election

Japan PM hopeful Kishida leads in LDP lawmaker support: poll

Divided party makes runoff likely for Wednesday election

Fumio Kishida, right, holds the most support from lawmakers in the Sept. 29 LDP leadership election while Taro Kono, left, enjoys strong backing from rank-and-file voters.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Over 120 ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers plan to back former party policy chief Fumio Kishida in the LDP presidential election, putting him ahead of the pack in with 30% parliamentary support, a Nikkei/TV Tokyo survey on Monday found. 

Administrative reform minister Taro Kono followed Kishida with more than 100, or over 20%, of parliamentary votes, while former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi appears likely to garner around 20%. 

A fourth candidate, former internal affairs minister Seiko Noda, has struggled to gain much traction beyond the 20 endorsements she needed to launch her bid.

LDP lawmakers cast a total of 382 votes in Wednesday's party presidential election while rank-and-file members outside parliament account for another 382 votes during the first round. The victor will be elected prime minister in a special parliamentary session next week. 

Kono enjoys the most support among the rank-and-file members. But no candidate is on track to capture the majority required to win the race outright. The top two candidates are expected to face off in a second round of voting.

Yet it remains uncertain which two candidates would advance, and the three leading camps are exploring potential tie-ups in case of a runoff. LDP tax policy chief Akira Amari, who supports Kishida, met at the Diet building on Monday with former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Takaichi's mentor. Amari also met with Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso later that day.

In a runoff between two candidates, the number of votes allocated to rank-and-file party members would shrink to 47, or one per prefecture. Lawmakers will still cast 382, for a total of 429 votes, though they could shift their support depending on the candidates' showing among rank-and-filers in the first round.

The Monday survey focused on LDP lawmakers who were undecided or had not responded to a Nikkei/TV Tokyo survey conducted last week. Kishida has the support of the 46 members in his own faction and appears to be gaining ground in the Hosoda, Aso and Takeshita factions as well.

Three-quarters of the 51-member Takeshita faction are now expected to vote for Kishida in the first round.

"We want to act together as a faction as much as possible" in a runoff, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, the faction's acting leader, said at a Monday meeting.

Kono is backed by the majority of the Aso faction, to which he belongs. He also has a majority of unaffiliated lawmakers and the Ishiba faction, as well as a portion of the Nikai and Takeshita factions.

Takaichi is unaffiliated but is expected to receive votes from over half the Hosoda faction, to which she once belonged.

Around 50, or over 10%, of LDP lawmakers remained undecided or did not respond on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Japanese public appears to favor Kono. In a Nikkei/TV Tokyo opinion poll conducted from Thursday to Saturday, 51% of LDP supporters said they saw Kono as the best choice to lead the party. Takaichi came in second at 19% with Kishida close behind at 18%. Noda was fourth at 2%.

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